Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Spratt, Thomas Abel Brimage

SPRATT, THOMAS ABEL BRIMAGE (1811–1888), vice-admiral, hydrographer, and author, eldest son of Commander James Spratt [q. v.], was born at East Teignmouth on 11 May 1811. He entered the navy in 1827, and from 1832 served in the Mastiff, and afterwards in the Beacon, surveying vessels in the Mediterranean, under the command of Lieutenant Thomas Graves, who had himself been trained as a surveyor under Captain Philip Parker King [q. v.] He passed his examination in January 1835; but though specially recommended in October 1837 for gallantry in saving a man who had fallen overboard, as well as for the valuable work he was doing in the survey, he was not promoted to be lieutenant till 15 Oct. 1841. Graves had just been promoted to the rank of commander, but remained in the Beacon, as also did Spratt till 1847, when he was appointed to command the Volage, on the same service. On 5 March 1849 he was promoted to commander's rank, and succeeded Graves in command of the Spitfire, in which he continued the surveying work in the Mediterranean. During the Crimean war the Spitfire was attached to the fleet in the Black Sea, and Spratt's trained ability as a surveyor was frequently utilised in laying down positions for the ships, especially in the attack on Kertch and Kinburn; his service was specially acknowledged by the commander-in-chief. On 3 Jan. 1855 he was promoted to the rank of captain, and on 5 July was nominated a C.B. After the peace he commanded the Medina, still on the Mediterranean survey, where he remained till 1863. He had no further service afloat, and retired in 1870. From 1866 to 1873 he was a commissioner of fisheries, and from 1879 was chairman of the Mersey conservancy board, an office he held till his death, at Tunbridge Wells, on 10 March 1888.

Spratt, who was elected F.R.S. in 1856, was known not only as an accomplished surveyor and hydrographer, but as a cultivated archæologist. ‘During his long career in the Mediterranean he not only rendered great service to the seamen and the navigators of all nations by his numerous and excellent surveys, but his cultured tastes and his scientific training enabled him to combine with his practical contributions to navigation the classical and geological history of the various islands of the Grecian Archipelago, the coasts of Asia Minor, and other portions of the Mediterranean Sea’ (Richards).

In conjunction with Edward Forbes [q. v.], the naturalist, Spratt published, in 1847, ‘Travels in Lycia’ (2 vols. 8vo); and, single-handed, ‘The Delta of the Nile’ (1859, fol.), ‘Sailing Directions for the Island of Candia’ (official, 1861, 8vo), and ‘Travels and Researches in Crete’ (1865, 2 vols. 8vo). He edited the ‘Autobiography’ of his ancestor, the Rev. Devereux Spratt, a kinsman of Thomas Sprat [q. v.], bishop of Rochester; and was also the author of several smaller works and of numerous papers in scientific journals (Royal Society's Index of Scientific Papers; British Museum Library Catalogue).

[O'Byrne's Nav. Biogr. Dict.; Sir George Richards in the Proceedings of the Royal Geogr. Soc. 1888, p. 242; Times, 15 March 1888; Navy Lists.]

J. K. L.